Tag Archives: W_Circuit

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Sarah & Michael’s W Trek in April

Sarah & Michael returned in April from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Thanks so much for all your help and information which allowed us to have a wonderful W trek! We had an unforgettable time in Patagonia and the itinerary created by Harriet was spot on.

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We took our W Trek from 5th-9th April and we were so lucky- we had lovely weather! Not a drop of rain! :)

Puerto NatalesWe got on great with our guide Victor who met us on Sunday at your partners’ office in – the whole experience was very positive- we enjoyed the refugios, the food, the lunches.

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The route was well planned and we were comfortable with the distances each day. There were some fabulous views too- Patagonia is such a lovely part of the world.

Thanks you too Harriet for the itinerary you prepared for us before we left, and for suggesting Perito Moreno and El Chalten- we took a day trip to Perito Moreno from El Calafate as you suggested and did the mini ice hiking which was a great experience. Again we had a beautiful sunny day for it which was lovely.

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We weren’t so lucky in El Chalten where it poured rain for our day hike  to Laguna de Los Tres- but we had a better day for Laguna Torres. We really enjoyed them- it’s a great town, lovely hiking, lovely views and met lovely people.

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And Chloe thank you so much for the thoughtful presents you sent just before we left- they’ve been with us on all our treks & we’d be lost without them!!

Thanks again for all your help!

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Nancy’s Fast Track W Trek

Nancy returned in March 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

We can’t thank you enough for an excellent and memorable end-to-end experience. This was, by far, my favourite vacation ever and the Torres del Paine hike was certainly the highlight of the trip. Please extend our thanks to the rest of the Swoop team as well as to our guide and your partners in Torres del Paine. Thanks again and we can’t wait to travel to S. America again soon!!

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What did Swoop do well? 

I truly appreciated the extremely quick and thoughtful responses from multiple members of the Swoop team, including the initial correspondence with Luke, the Skype call with Harriet to discuss options, and the follow-up email post trip from Chloe.

Given the wealth of options for activities, trails, transportation, lodging etc in Patagonia, it quickly became overwhelming for us to try to plan this trip on our own while maximising our time in Chile. So we were so glad to find Swoop (and that you accommodated our request just 2 weeks before our trip)!

You can tell that the Swoop team is genuinely invested in working with their clients to tailor their trip to fit their specific needs/interests. The website is  very informative and easy to navigate and we appreciated the pre-trip tools like the packing list and the generous postcard and head scarf gift, mailed internationally! We also felt extremely lucky to be paired with two other hikers who we got along with very well!

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What could we have done differently? 

It might help to assess each hiker’s physical shape, hiking experience, and any concerns they may have about the hike before their trip and to communicate this to the tour guide as this could help improve communication overall between the tour guide and hikers and prevent injuries throughout the hike (see below for more notes on this). Of course, we completely understand that Swoop is not responsible for any injuries but some basic steps towards injury prevention could have been beneficial. In addition, it may be worth setting expectations with your hikers that they will need to share rooms with fellow hikers (this was definitely not an issue at all for us, but I could see where this could be surprising for others).

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia? 

Absolutely! The Torres del Paine hike was the highlight of my overall trip to S. America and it wouldn’t have been possible without the professional guidance and support from the Swoop team. In addition, the price of the overall package was extremely reasonable considering all of the transfers needed for the 3 days.

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Did you enjoy your itinerary? 

Yes! Based on all the research we did online, it was clear that the 3 key sights to see in Torres del Paine were Base Torres, French Valley, and Grey Glacier but weren’t sure if this would be feasible in just 3 days. The hike to the base of the Torres was definitely the most rigorous (but rewarding!) hike, so we thought the sequencing of the 3 hikes on this Fast Track W Trek was perfect, with a gradual decrease in difficulty level.

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How were your guides? 

Carlos was an amazing, responsible, and knowledgeable guide. He gave us sufficient briefings each night before the next hike. We loved the lunch he packed us on Day 1 (fresh salmon sandwiches) and we were so touched when he carried hot tea for us to enjoy at the top of each hike as well as extra avocado, tomato, and cream cheese to supplement those dry boxed lunch sandwiches from our refugios :-)  We also had an especially long and tiring hike of the French Valley on Day 2, but Carlos made sure we were all settled at Paine Grande right before going to bed and had everything we need before he started pitching his own tent for the evening.

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Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

Our one criticism is that it was difficult at times to keep up with Carlos, especially during the French Valley hike. Our hike down the mountain was extremely fast and there were several times where all four of us in the hiking group were concerned about safety. We thought that better communication from Carlos would’ve been helpful about laying out our options for the day and how our pace would need to increase significantly with longer hikes so we could manage this better. In hindsight, I would’ve have definitely opted not to complete the final stretch of the French Valley hike, had I known that we would need to hurry back down the mountain.

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What was the highlight of your trip? 

The highlight of the trip was visiting the base of the Torres, because of the beautiful, rewarding view after a tough trek! That day started off very foggy and we weren’t sure we’d actually see the view from the top but were incredibly lucky that the weather cooperated with us for the day! The catamaran boat rides were also beautiful – we enjoyed beautiful weather both ways!

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Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip? 

I found Swoop’s packing lists to be particularly useful. Initially, I doubted that we’d really need gear for 4 seasons but am really glad we packed accordingly as it was pretty cold/rainy (especially for the Base Torres and Grey Glacier legs).

You should also pack your own towels (even for Lodge Paine Grande as they ran out of their rentals).

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina? 

Yes, we spent a total of 9 days in South America and our itinerary included 1 day in Buenos Aires, 1 day in El Calafete (to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier), 1 day in Puerto Natales (horse back riding), 3 days in Torres del Paine, and 2 days in Mendoza wine tasting.

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Matthew’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Matthew returned in March from a Self Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

What did Swoop do well? 

I liked using Swoop because they responded in a timely fashion to all of my queries, and could speak fluent English. I had a lot of trouble when I first started looking for a company, and Swoop were able to solve the problems I was unable to resolve with the Chilean companies.

What could we have done differently? 

If possible, it would have been great to have received some guidance on how to get to Puerto Natales, opportunities for extra activities by taking the bus straight from Punta Arenas Airport to Puerto Natales,  things to consider when packing, etc. I know you have the website, but I one sheet would be great. Also you could mention how much food you get if you buy the trek with meals included… So much!

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia?

Yes.

How were Swoop’s partners who ran the W Trek in Torres del Paine?

They were fine, the itinerary was good, and was pretty accurate, and there is nothing I would change about the trip.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

1. Choose a trek with meals included, you will not go hungry! No need to bring additional food.

2. The third day is the longest, so start early and enjoy the French Valley.

3. No need to bring your own food.

4. Do not stay in Punta Arenas, go straight to Puerto Natales and going Kayaking.

5. The conversion of USD to Pesos drops in the rufigos, so be prepared.

6. The trails are well traveled so don’t worry about getting lost.

7. The beds are single beds unless you can get a cabin on the third night (get the cabin if you can!).

8. Take the last ferry (630ish), cause if you take the 5PM you have to wait for the late ferry before leaving.

9. Make accommodation reservations in Puerto Natales for the night you return from the trek.

10. Make sure you have enough things to do at night (eg, deck of cards, etc).

11. Bring sunscreen.

What was the highlight of your trip? 

The French Valley Glacier and the Towers.

Bill’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Bill returned in March from a trip to Patagonia, during which he embarked on some fantastic hikes in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National parks. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

The service I received from Swoop Patagonia was excellent.  All emails were answered  in a timely fashion and your staff responded very well to any questions I had.  Further, you provided a number of options that I could chose from, in terms of activities, places to visit and making the best use of the time I had available.

How were Swoop’s partners who supported you in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares?

The service I received from both partners was great.

The two different guides I had on the day hikes in Los Glaciares were excellent.  They both knew the routes, had good knowledge of the geology, plants and weather conditions we encountered.  Pablo (I think that was his name), who led the trek to Laguna de los Tres, had to make the decision to cut the trek short due to weather conditions (he thought we might run into heavy rain during the steepest part of the trek). I felt that he used good judgment in making that decision.

Regarding costs, I think the basic cost of the Self-guided W Trek was a little on the high side. I say that because this payment mainly covered transportation, and food/lodging arrangements at the refugios, and the boat on Grey Lake — no guide services.

If you were to do it all again, what would you change?

I would allow more time. Maybe two nights at Torre Central Refugio in order to improve the chances for getting some good views and photos of the actual Torres that are so iconic to any trek in Torres del Paine National Park. The day I trekked up to the “mirador” (where most people have their lunch and take in the spectacular view), on the 2nd day of the 5-day Independent W Trek, the “Torres” were shrouded in clouds and I couldn’t see much.  My trekking companion had been up there a day earlier and had fantastic, clear, views and photos of the three rock towers. Weather can make a huge difference!

I also would have allowed another day in Argentina to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier. But I was unable to extend my flight itinerary due to the fact that I was using award miles for payment.  Also, if I had booked the trip 6 months to a year in advance, I’m sure that I would have had more flexibility

‘Overall, I would certainly recommend Swoop Patagonia to friends, family or colleagues planning a trip to Patagonia. Thanks again for the excellent customer service that I received.’

 

Per’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Per returned in March from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and out partners…

‘I am very satisfied with the whole experience, it was really great, and booth Swoop and their partners in Torres del Paine did a great job!’

How were Swoop Patagonia? 

Swoop were very good, they answered all of my questions, provided relevant information, and helped out with all of my booking needs.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

They were very good also. I had an excellent guide for the W Trek, and a great itinerary… everything worked perfectly!

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The only room for improvement that I can think of was that the food in our last refugio (Paine Grande) was under par compared to the others, and the drinks were also more expensive.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The views in Torres del Paine are clearly the highlight, on top of that we had fantastic weather! The small group I was with was also very nice with cool people.

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Jill’s Trekking Holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Jill returned in February 2015 from a trip to Patagonia that included treks in both Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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How was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop?

You guys did an awesome job of organising everything and I’d definitely recommend you. Of the six of us that hiked the 7 day W Trek together, five booked through Swoop. You guys were always quick to reply to any questions I had and gave me your honest opinions on what might be a good fit for me.

What did you think of the eco friendly camp you stayed at in Torres del Paine?

I had my doubts about the camp but I’m so glad I stayed there. The domes are wonderful! People we met out on the trail were typically envious of us when they heard where we were staying.

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How were swoop’s partners who supported you in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares?

They were fine but, I did find them to be a little disorganised at times. The biggest issue was that it would take them a long time to reply to emails. This was understandable for the partner in Chalten as I know that the internet is poor there, but not so much for the other partner who was based in Santiago. This wasn’t a huge issue, more of an annoyance, especially as my trip approached and things became more time sensitive.

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Los Glaciares

I think that the Los Glaciers partner would benefit from some sort of online payment service. Cash is such a premium down there and it’s not the best feeling having to travel around with wads of cash. I also felt that this part of the trip was quite expensive for what I got. My tour guide for the Big Ice tour did not explain things well… It was neat to be out on the glacier but I thought they could have done a better job for the money I paid. I still loved being out on the Glacier and wouldn’t have been able to do that any other way. The guide we had at Estancia Cristina was good however, the day was really long but the hike took us through a really beautiful area. Swoop’s Los Glaciares partners suggested taking a transfer from El Chalten to do the Fitz Roy hike from a different starting point and set up the transfer for me which was really good advice.

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Torres del Paine

At the eco friendly camp all the staff and guides were outstanding. I learned so much and was so comfortable the entire time I was there. And the food was unreal! I wouldn’t have changed a thing about that part of my trip (except maybe the weather for the French Valley portion of the Trek).

Patagonia was definitely the highlight of my trip, but I also spent time in Santiago, Valparaiso, Buenos Aires and Mendoza. No complaints, but nothing compared to being in the south!

‘Thanks again for everything, it was an amazing trip.’

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Duane’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Duane returned in March from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop and our partners?

Great thank you, I enjoyed every day of my trip!

I would certainly recommend you and your partners to others, as the information provided to me ahead of time was very helpful. I am also thankful for the accommodations being taken care of, as my Spanish was lacking.

Thanks for the memories.

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Is there anything you would change about your trip?

I can’t think of any negatives – the lowest points, if any, were the refugios, but I enjoyed my stays there as well.

Seeing the many campers nearby, however, and the fact that most if not all of the facilities in the refugios were available to them, I thought that next time it would probably be better to do a self-guided camping trip (tent and sleeping bag already prepared, so I’m carrying only clothes, food, etc.).

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was at the base of Las Torres, as it was also my 40th birthday, and the sky was unusually clear. I also loved the view of Glacier Grey.

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Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

I highly recommend that others spend more time in Puerto Natales, as it is a very charming town. On second thought, don’t - too many people might alter the charm. :)

 

Vicky’s 7 day Luxury Camp W Trek

Vicky returned in February from a Trek in Torres del Paine National Park, based from an eco friendly camp. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘All of us thoroughly enjoyed the trip! Torres del Paine was breath taking – I really hope we have the opportunity to go back again in the future’

How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

Everyone at Swoop was very responsive and prompt – we really appreciated this as we didn’t know much about the logistics of traveling in Patagonia and had never been.  Everyone was very patient with all of our many, many questions. This was very, very much appreciated.  We would definitely recommend Swoop Patagonia to anyone traveling to Patagonia!!

How was your experience with swoop’s partners who ran the W Trek?

We felt that the services from Swoop and Swoop’s partners were fantastic.  The pick up times and locations were clear, and everyone did everything they could to make it easier on us (ie. picking us up at our hostel for transfers, etc.).

How was your W Trek in Torres del Paine?

We really enjoyed the W Trek itinerary! Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the park, wildlife and geography – we were all very impressed.  The guides were very patient with us and managed the group well.  We were worried about pace of the group if it was going to be a large group.  The guides ended up dividing our group of 14 into 2 groups: our group with 6 people (mostly our age) and then the other group with 8 people, who were mostly older guests.  But they would still bring both groups together at the end of the day so we can chat and socialise which was nice.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The major thing that we would have liked to change is the responsiveness of Swoop’s partners in finalising the booking. It took them a long time to respond to emails, and we did not receive information on our pick up until after we had arrived in Calafate despite sending multiple emails. We had originally asked them about the Isla Magdalena tours, but they never responded until Harriet from Swoop emailed them for us. By then it was about 3 weeks out and we had already booked our own tours through another operator. Towards the end, I kind of gave up trying to contact them and just directed most of our questions to Harriet at Swoop – so I really appreciate her and Swoop’s patience with us.

Another minor thing that I would have liked to change is a little bit more flexibility on the day that we visited Grey Glacier.  The 2nd half of that day – we drove back from Pudeto to the camp and stopped at 2 lookouts along the way that gave a great view of Los Cuernos. There were a few other amazing lookout points along the way that we didn’t get to stop at due to the guides wanting to keep the group on schedule for dinner – it would have been great to have some more time for pictures and sight-seeing, as this was the only day that we could view the massif from this angle.

What were the highlights of your trip?

We wanted to go to Patagonia for the trekking, and I would say that was the main highlight.  It’s hard to pick a favourite hike – we saw amazing scenery everywhere.  I don’t think we missed too much by minimizing time spent in the cities due to our limited travel days.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

Prior to arriving in Torres del Paine, we spent 3 days hiking on the Argentina side. We hiked Laguna de Los Tres one day and Laguna Torre on the 2nd day. The third day prior to our transfer day to the camp, we visited Perito Moreno Glacier and did the mini-trekking activity there.

After we left Torres del Paine, we transferred to Punta Arenas.  We were hoping to do the Isla Magdalena Penguin Tour but the tour was cancelled for that day due to windy conditions. We did do the Seno Otway Penguin tour instead.

From there we spent 1 extra day in Santiago and did a little bit of sight-seeing in the city before coming home.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Ask a lot of questions and, if there’s time, do background reading on the region.  This was something I had wanted to do prior to leaving but ran out of time.

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Karly’s Camping W Trek

Karly and her husband returned in January 2015 from their honeymoon in Chile, during which they took a Trek in Torres del Paine organised by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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How was your experience of booking your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

We had a great time on our trip with Swoop- it was the highlight of our honeymoon in Chile for sure!

What did you think of your W Trek Itinerary?

We would definitely recommend the Camping W Trek to family and friends who are in very good physical shape (we both found the hiking to be challenging, but manageable). We got very lucky with the weather and were astounded by the beauty of the park.

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How was your guide on the trip?

Our guide, Mauricio was extremely skilled and knowledgeable, and a great photographer as well! The meals were good, and my husband and I enjoyed great vegetarian food the whole time.

Do you have any recommendations for us that would have improved your experience?

I think my only recommendation would be to have more ways to tailor the trip for less experienced hikers (i.e. more down time, factoring in more time for the hikes to take pictures). Some of this is really just because I felt I could have spent hours at the lookouts, which isn’t totally possible, but I wonder if it would be possible to get a bit more time to take it all in, as the sights were truly overwhelming and unreal. Overall however, everything was great.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also went to Santiago, Vina del mar and Valparaiso, and were able to go to Isla Magdalena to see the Penguins when we were back in Punta Arenas.

Thank you for helping us to plan and arrange this fantastic experience!

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Rob & Amy Trek in Torres del Paine & Ushuaia

Rob and Amy returned in January 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine followed by some excursions in Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

You guys put together a fabulous trip for us in Patagonia and your recommendations for Ushuaia in particular were spot on.

I don’t think you could or should do anything differently – your communication is perfectly clear and timely and both of your partners receive our highest marks.  By all means I would recommend you to friends and family.

How was your W Trek in Torres del Paine

The W Trek was exactly as promised.  The self-guided version was great for us and was well explained by your partners at the start when they met us at their office in Puerto Natales.  Moreover, they were able to secure dinner reservations for us the night before our trek – New Years Eve – at a fantastic restaurant in Puerto Natales – that’s service!

[Read Sally’s top picks for dining out in Patagonia]

How was the Accommodation during your W Trek?

Our accommodations in Puerto Natales (Amerindia) were perfect, and the refugios on the trek exceeded our expectations.  How did we get a double room for our last night?  So awesome!  The cabin upgrade was so worthwhile. In comparing the price of our trip with other travellers – we got the better deal!

What was the highlight of your W Trek?

Well, crystal clear weather at the Torres – 2 hours of brilliant blue sky while we lounged by the lake!  Wow!

Do you have any tips for other travellers planning a trip?

Use Swoop and their partners in Chile! The W-trek is not a wilderness experience as there are lots of people but the scenery is breath-taking.

How was your day trip in Ushuaia?

Swoop’s partners in Ushuaia did a great job on our day trip. The guide was very knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna, geology and history. It was a little expensive for a day hike but this company has it dialled in!

Did you visit anywhere else during your trip?

We visited El Calafate and did the Big Ice trek on Perito Merino. We also spent 8 days on the Valvilov in Antarctica and finished off with 2 days in Buenos Aires.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

We wish we had made time for FitzRoy – next trip – and, we will contact you guys before we go.

We might have added an extra day onto the W-Trek but it was totally doable in the 4-night time frame you arranged.

Everything else – perfect – thanks you guys! And, thanks for the buffs!  We are wearing them daily back here in Durango, CO  USA!